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01:840:211- Midterm Exam Guide - Comprehensive Notes for the exam ( 28 pages long!)


Department
Religion
Course Code
01:840:211
Professor
lammerts
Study Guide
Midterm

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Rutgers
01:840:211
MIDTERM EXAM
STUDY GUIDE

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Lecture 11: The Disappearance and Renewal of the Sasana and the future Budhha
Metteyya
As mentioned in earlier lectures, Gotama Buddha taught that by allowing women to ordain as
female monks into the saṅgha, the true dhamma, and therefore the ability for beings to reach
nibbāna, will remain in the world for only 500 years, instead of 1000.
Later Buddhist commentators of all traditions (Theravāda, Mahāyāna, Vajrayāna) elaborated
upon the timeframe of the dhamma’s decline indicated by the Buddha.
-The Theravāda tradition viewed that Gotama’s dispensation (sāsana) would remain in the
world for 5000 years after his death.
-However, only during the first 1000 years would the dhamma be pure and nibbāna remain a
possibility.
-For Theravāda Buddhists born after this initial 1000 year period (and March 2017 C.E. falls
in year 2559 of the sāsana —2560 begins on Apr 13 2017), this means that nibbāna will not be
a possibility again until the coming of the next Buddha, Metteyya (a.k.a. Maitreya, Phra Sri
Ariya), who will discover the true dhamma, begin to teach, and lead beings to nibbāna.
-A popular and influential Theravāda story of Metteyya, and how humans may meet him in the
future, is told in the tale of Phra Malai.
PHRA MALAI
There are many versions of the Phra Malai tale in different languages. The version translated
by Brereton and read for class was written in Thailand in mixed Thai and Pali in 1737 C.E.,
and is attributed to Prince Thammathibet, son of a king of Ayutthaya (a Buddhist kingdom in
premodern Thailand), perhaps composed while he was a monk
In contemporary Thailand and Laos, this story is often recited at funerals, as a reminder
to the living to make merit on behalf of the deceased. It is also commonly recited as part
of the annual Vessantara Jātaka Festival (Bun Phra Wet or Maha
Chat). Also, in certain regions of Southeast Asia there is a Buddhist “Day of the Deadfestival,
which is heavily influenced by the Phra Malai tale
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Author’s Introduction:
Homage to the Triple Gem: Buddha, Dhamma, Sagha (187-189)
Emphasis on generosity (dāna) in describing the Buddha Gotama (187)
The sagha as a field of merit (189)
Phra Malai is an arahant (Thai: arhat) from Rohana in Sri Lanka who lived “a long time
ago.”
Malai visits hell to lessen the suffering of beings there- temporarily releasing them from
their hellish punishments (190). The hell-beings ask him to relate their miserable condition to
their relatives in the human realm. They tell Malai to instruct their human relatives to make
merit though acts of dāna (generosity) and transfer that merit to the dead to release them
from their state of misfortune (191-2).
Phra Malai then visits Tāvatiṃsa Heaven (191-192):
“He saw heavenly treasures as wonderful as could be wished for, through the power
of the Three Gems [=Buddha, Dhamma, Sagha]. With joy and faith the thera
[=“monk”] observed it and then returned to the human realms to tell of it. He
described everything so completely that the people could imagine heaven as if they
were seeing it with their own eyes. With steadfast faith in the teachings of the
Buddha, the people hastened to perform acts of merit fully, completely, without
negligence. They transferred the merit to their relatives unceasingly. They set their
minds on practicing generosity everywhere because of having heard all that he
reported.”
-Then one day… back in the human realm, Malai receives eight lotuses as a gift from a poor
man, who makes a wish to be reborn wealthy as a result of his act of generosity (192-3).
-Malai goes to Tāvatiṃsa Heaven to donate the lotuses in worship to the Cūḷāmaṇi Cetiya.
This cetiya was created by the god Sakka (Indra), king of Tāvatiṃsa, to enshrine the hair cut
off by Gotama when he renounced the palace to become an ascetic at age 29 (193).
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